Thursday, December 21, 2006

What Makes A Good Lecturer?

Apologies for the slow rate of posts for the last couple of days. Have been a tad busy with travelling, taking care of the little one who's on 2 weeks play-school "holiday", work (yes, I still have to make a living) and Kian Ming's sitting for his examinations. ;)

I posted a while back with regards to "UTAR: Too Fast, Too Soon?", which by-the-way, has some of the most active and intelligent discussions on-going. Together with another post on UTAR, "Qualitative Insights", they are among 2 of the most popular posts (combined nearly 150 comments and 7,200 page views) on this blog attracting those I believe to be UTAR academics, students and alumni.

There was this extremely insightful comment which I'd like to highlight here, that essentially raises the question of what makes a good lecturer, as well as the difficulty and paradox of becoming a truly good one.

The lecturer from UTAR was responding to a comment by former scholar, Emily who gave some constructive criticism on the university's spoon feeding tendencies, for example, by not encouraging "further reading". Emily argued that for "many of [her] classes, you read the lecturer's notes and the text, memorise and embrace them - they are your bible, your religion, contradict and you're a heretic who will burn."
I was in the industry for 6 years, and then I come over here [UTAR]. I had no teaching experience. I picked up “teaching” skills through my own hard ways, trying to emulate the way I was trained overseas. It was not long before almost all the students told me they were unable to follow my lessons. They were basically unable to comprehend me if I did not translate some words into Bahasa or Mandarin. They were not able to take down notes on their own if we were to deliver our lectures without dictating to them the points or giving printed notes to them. Even outlines and handouts (with cross-referencing to textbooks and other sources as per the unit plan) were not sufficient for them, they said they were still lost. And whatever notes we wished to give, these had to be given to them a week in advance, if not, as the class representative put it, “we won’t be able to concentrate in class”.

Taking their feedback at face value, I then spent countless long nights preparing detailed notes, summarising, in simpler English, from the textbooks. It occurred to me, I was spoon-feeding them, but I thought, hey, perhaps that was how they did things in here.

It was not long before I observed them paying less attention in class – because they no longer needed to listen and write down anything during the lectures. During tutorials, I observed them not preparing in advance the answers to the tutorial questions. When asked, they replied, “your lecture notes are too detailed, we haven’t finished reading”. Some hadn’t even read it – I could see the photocopied notes, still crisp without underlinings, highlightings or jottings.

For the exams, I referred to the local, UK, Australian and US examinations, and based my teaching and assessment on these. In my first semester, 55% students failed my paper. Understandably, I had to give explanation to the Head for the failures.

The students were asked also and they replied that the questions were within their abilities; they had covered the topics before, and had practised same difficulty-level questions before in tutorials. But they had not finished studying the lecture notes and practised the tutorial questions. And most importantly, they said they found the exam areas “too wide. The lecturer did not narrow down the areas for us to revise for the exam, so how to score?”

In my next semester, with a new group of students, I gave printed lecture notes again, and kept advising them to check this or that textbooks and web-sites to get more informative materials for their assignments and coursework. I told them to have confidence in their abilities to do research, do not underestimate themselves as not being of the same level as students from other universities. Then I told them I expected to see them presenting a solid, well-research assignment in class. They had something like 2 months to do the group assignment and presentation.

I discovered during the presentation that they “cut and paste” materials from the Internet and any textbooks. Despite my cajoling them to have more eye-contacts and refer less to their notes/slides when presenting, they failed to do so. Come Q&A time, I asked for their original opinion and inputs, telling them they would get marks no matter how much they disagreed with what they had picked up from my class or the books. What I wanted was creative, original opinion. They remained silent or repeated the points from the notes and textbooks. I asked them, when did they started their work – they started five days ago. Why? “Because we were rushing other assignments...” When were those assignments given? "Beginning of the semester.”

For the exam, again I referred to local and overseas standards, with adaptations. I also watered down some of my questions and I confidently thought most would pass. In fact, some of the questions were similar to the case-studies they had tackled in the tutorials(or rather, were given answers since they did only minimal work and remained silent during class, forcing us to have to give them the answers). That semester, 45% failed. My head respectfully moved me to another subject, saying that perhaps another colleague could handle that subject better.

Ever since then, life gets “better” for my students. I still maintain my high standards, but extensive spoon-feeding and “narrowing of exam topics” are given. Articles are photocopied in advance for them, and once a while, I still receive groans like “aiya, why so many one…how to finishlah….”

At the end of each semester, we lecturers often have to ask our students to do lecturers’ evaluation (evaluations are done on-line). Often, those of us who conduct their lessons ala-"Utar" style get impressive feedbacks, with students giving comments like “he is so helpful” (read: give detailed notes, photostat articles for them and give exam tips) or “she delivers her lessons so well and interestingly” (read: tell jokes in class, give them answers, play games, cover only easy parts of the syllabus, leaving out the difficult ones).

Those of us who are tough, who insist on not spoon-feeding them or adhere to high standards often get lambasted in their evaluations “she is never punctual for class” (ticked off one or students for being late), “we learn nothing from his class” (ticked them off for not preparing for their tutorials and made them do the questions & discuss during class itself) or “he always wastes time talking about issues irrelevant to our syllabus” (discussed current issues pertaining to the economy, unemployment among graduates of the same discipline and social environment). These lecturers are left praying that the exam results won’t be so disastrous, since if that were to happen, the evaluation comments will definitely be taken into account. (usually the head will try to be fair and speak to the lecturers first regarding their evaluations, to hear their side).

Some of us do not have “insecure and unintelligent” nature, but for the sake of “enhancing appearance of superiority”, wouldn’t it be wise for them to start learning how to be?

I understand and appreciate whatever strong comments Emily and the rest have made so far in this and other blog on the Utar lecturers. Perhaps my story will give you all a chance to hear “the other side” and form your own conclusions.

Having been here for over 2 years, and having gone through all that above, I can say I am still hopeful, i.e. I am not that put off by the type, quality or attitudes of many students that we are having here. After all, when lemons are handed to us, we have to try make lemonades out of them.

Even so, I feel that if only the students have the right quality and attitude, this will go a long way. I am of the opinion that it does not matter if the students, at the point of entry, were to have poor SPM, STPM or whatever entrance exam results. What is important is their willingness to change themselves, make that commitment and go all way out to achieve something for themselves.

We lecturers here are trying our best to firstly, address the gap in the students'academic abilities and English, and secondly, to bring them on par with the international university students. We can only do our level best, but how are we to achieve our desired results if year in, year out, the students give us the feedback that “we want only that piece of paper that will get us a job, so please teach only what you want to examine, the rest we are not interested”.

I sometimes wish there are 70 or 80% Emilys in my fac, it would have made my teaching experience here so enjoyable and meaningful. True, we have our fair share of 1st class Honours students here, I have taught many of them myself. Someone hits the nail on the head by saying that in UTAR, the 1st class honours students are the truly good ones, while those getting 2nd class and below are, well, what can I say.....

Here, most of us are overworked, but whether we are being appreciated by the students, the management and community....that is a big question. But then, we must always remain positive and do our best.
I actually don't think I have to write much more for I think what the lecturer has highlighted doesn't really need further elaboration. But that will really be underestimating the complexity and seriousness of the issue. In particular, it reflects the inherent difficulties in creating well-rounded graduates equipped with critical thinking and analytical skills.

While the concerned raised was specific to UTAR, it obviously isn't unique to the college and is probably prevalent in most, if not all of our local private and public universities.

I'm certain that many other academics ploughing this blog will have their "stories" to tell as well. Let's hear from students and lecturers, or even the university management for the relevant views as well as how this problem may (high hopes here), be resolved.

I will write on my personal contrasting experience at Raffles Junior College in Singapore, and my undergraduate years at Oxford in Part II to this post. This type of comments here certainly makes me feel like I'm doing something useful with my time spent running this little blog. ;)


Black Mojo said...

To be a good lecturer, I believe in a few basic qualities
1 Ability to communicate
2 Sincere desire to teach
3 Empathy with the students
4 Love for the knowledge and teaching
5 Happy to see students acquring knowledge
6 Believe inmaking the students think and become important individual seeking truth in knowledge
7 Always being a good example for students to emulate in or out of lecture halls
8 Have the ability to joke and make students laugh
9 Occasionally let your hair down and join the students in their groups
10 Give experience, field knowledge to enhance the subject

and many many more

Ahpiau academic said...

Dear Emily,

I have been an academic for almost two years. I agree that most of your comments on Malaysian students on "spoon-feeding" are true. Nonetheless, I feel that your approach in this matter is somewhat brazen and drastic. I applaud your initiatives to inculcate "critical thinking" into the students' learning process but this should have been done gradually. You really need to balance between the "spoon-feeding" culture and "in-depth critical thinking" culture. The problem with the students is that they reckon that the "spoon-feeding" culture is the "right" way of learning. What your students fail to comprehend was that your method of lecturing was the right way in an institution of higher learning. Therefore, I suggest that this notion should be gradually conveyed to your students. Remind them that they should develop their own critical thinking mindset and should shy away from being spoonfed as spoonfeeding culture is only for primary and secondary schools. This would take time and cannot be done in a year.

These are just my two cents anyway...

osgrad said...

isn't the institution at fault here as well, promoting the spoonfeeding culture indirectly by promoting/praising/giving higher marks for lecturers who managed to pass more students although the students might not be of the necessary quality?

if i'm an employer reading this, it would make all non-1st class UTAR grads extremely unemployable.

Anonymous said...

For me and I believe, for most people, a good lecturer is one who enables one's students to understand a particular difficult concept in the simplest way and the shortest possible time. Period. Whatever method, (either "critical thinking" or "spoon-feeding") he/she uses is immaterial. I have encountered long-winding lecturers/teachers beating about the bush to encourage "critical thinking" which only serves to confuse the students. Those students who had undergone the Nuffield science courses will understand what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Project Nuffield failed right?

Anonymous said...

The problem here is that spoon-feeding starts from secondary school.

Which already instills a wrong mindset to these students.

Having underwent secondary education in Singapore, I can say that it is definitely way more different than what I expected, compared to Msia.

For example, the subject of History. I noted most of my peers back home were memorizing useless facts pertaining to who established this or that. History in Singapore emphasizes on evaluation, thinking, balancing etc.
Typical essay questions are like "to what extent do you agree that Germany is responsible for the start of World War I?". Another question may be like "do you agree that the Soviet Union was to blame for the start of the cold war?".
This is in direct contrast to what a typical student in Msia would learn, which would be abt early early history of Malaya etc. which in my opinion, is hardly relevant to modern Malaysia. History in Singapore is used to shape students' world views, how they treat the world around them and to impart evaluative and analytical skills.

Is it a surprise that when students become accustomed to these methods, that they would expect anything different then? The point is, spoon-feeding should stop after primary school. The shift should happen during secondary school, not university, which should be focus on attaining high standards of academic excellence.

Another thing is the attitude of students towards university education. University education is not about getting that slip of paper. Rather, it is the pursuit of knowledge and the equipping of higher-level skills. The emphasis should be on the quality of education, not the quantity. Not all people are suited for universities. Hence, the high entrance requirements in other universities around the world.

Those who are not suited for academics, should not be inside then. They should seek other forms of tertiary education, eg. polytechnics etc.

The second point here is that, the standards of university education should never be lowered just to accommodate more people. What it should do, is to offer poor people equal chance to have access to it. However, the quality of the university is of paramount importance, which is precisely how NUS managed to climb its way up into the top 20 universities.

Anonymous said...

We all know teachers / lecturers are not as well paid as their peers in the corporate sector.. but yet teachers / lecturers are indispensable.

Some teachers / lecturers just love to teach and some just love to do research.

So how should the university management review such cases for promotion purposes ? ..

Universities usually give more weightage to research but how about parents who are the customers paying the students fees? Parents would want to judge
lecturers by teaching ability and here is where students evaluations on lecturers come in useful.

But then of course students like lecturers who give out more As..

So it’s not an easy task when it comes to annual review time for promotion, increment and bonus..


Walatoi said...

Defination of 'lecturer' is someone who lectures

Teaching is the primary focus of university followed by research

Anonymous said...

I also thought the Nuffield system had failed and was abandoned in the UK before it was then introduced to our high schools in the early 70s.

Correction - spoonfeeding does not start at secondary school. In Malaysia, it starts at kindergarten level.

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that a good lecturer is one who equips me for my next career step. So if critical thinking is absolutely necessary for me to do a good job and open up my avenues (most of my classmates end up in completely different fields from their courses of study) then I expect the lecturer to adopt this competency in the course of the university education. If all I want to do is to sit beside the ticket barrier and tear tickets as people pass by, yes please just give me a piece of paper at the end of the lecture.

There are many Malaysian graduates who do brilliantly overseas despite the spoonfeeding in their pre-tertiary education. This shows that students can adapt, but they will only do so within an environment which encourages and motivates them to do so.


clk said...

Many of us here are probably products of spoonfeeding. I did not attend Uni for my undergrad but pursued a professional qualification instead. Spoonfeeding was less b'cos the lecturers have no idea what examiners were setting although it was purely examination in nature and, since most subjects are technical rather than analytical, our exams based edu system allow some of us to go through (although passing rate was like 1/3).

I subsequently pursue my Master with the OU-UK and somewhat had a "culture shock" b'cos they now tell you any answer/submission is valid if you can argue and substantiate your arguments with data/facts/cases/ models in the real world.

I'm now pursuing a self-course in Philosophy and have a further culture-shock because there really is no "real" answer nor reality for that matter. Analysis and the various premises to argue your points and conclusion is what matters.

I wish that was how we were taught in school, then history and school would certainly be more fun!

But then its certainly tougher and challenging and maybe our politicians think we aren't that smart after all or do not want us to surpass their level of intelligence....

chenchow said...

Thanks, Tony for highlighting this comment by a lecturer at UTAR. I strongly believe that the lecturer is speaking from his/her heart.

What I think should transpire from here, is how we could solve this problem? What could we do? As Tony pointed out, this is not just happening at UTAR, but also at many other colleges/universities/schools?

Can we improve the situation? The question is "How"? I do try to go back to my high school/college and speak to them, and often, many do not pay much attention. It is really sad that only a small fraction of students who really care to listen and pay full attention, and often there would be a group who would make noise at the back.

So, how could we improve this situation, as we wouldn't want a whole generation of Malaysians produced to be of such nature.

I have seen such situation pointed out by the lecturer happened when I was in secondary school. Those teachers who are dedicated and go beyond teaching us what is required for exam, is often branded the teacher who do not know how to teach. Whereas those who purely go through the syllabus and teach us how to score in exam is branded as good teacher.

But today, many years after I have left high school, I learned the most from those who teached me stuff beyond the syllabus.

junhoe said...

I truly sympathise with the lecturer from UTAR. I'm not sure whether it matters that UTAR is a private uni, because in my uni, the lecturers seem to hold almost absolute power. I'm a 3rd year student pursuing Zoology in UKM now.

Before I digress, here's what I think makes a good lecturer:
a. Knows the subject well, and can expand beyond basic concepts readily found in books.
b. Communicate well - Nothing worse than when the whole class stares at the lecturer blinking/sleeping.
c. Dedicated - Have sufficient classes to cover the syllabus, and not keep telling students to "baca sendiri".

Now, my response to the UTAR lecturer:
I feel deeply sorry for you, but from my experience the best lecturers I had are ones that took the effort to prepare their class and exams well. They've always warned us - "Class notes can guarantee a B- at most, to get an A you'll need to read more on your own."

I have to say the attitude of those students are very shameful indeed. I don't go around begging lecturers for notes, I'll try to pick up my own in class or add on to the handout notes provided. Most of my coursemates initially did complain about not understanding lectures (mostly from Mandarin-speaking) background, but they usually do the translating themselves or ask their friends for help. As far as I know most of them don't go bugging their lecturers for word-by-word translation. I think this may be due to the realisation that, to put it bluntly - beggars can't be choosers. We pay so little for our education, that we usually settle for it and just try to make it work.

I've always given good evaluation to lecturers whom I think are deserving and vice versa, regardless of the grade. And I'm not sure, but I feel that lecturer evaluation actually has very little impact. In fact, one of my better lecturers keeps telling the class proudly how she doesn't care she gets bad evaluation all the time, as she feels that she's doing her job right. And I applaud her for that.

May I suggest that if you feel the situation in UTAR is suffocating, perhaps take a look at some public unis instead. Please don't give up your efforts; know that there are students who appreciate you for it.

Anonymous said...

This is in response to Walatoi who said...

Defination of 'lecturer' is someone who lectures
Teaching is the primary focus of university followed by research

I think this is the general view of Malaysian public. However, the same public would cry outrage when our universities do not place well in rankings.

The truth is not that simple. In more developed countries such as US for example, there are mainly two types of universities - teaching-oriented and research-oriented. The teaching-oriented would have their academic faculties teach first and view research as secondary, while the opposite holds true for research-oriented universities. Even the workload reflects this philosophy. Average teaching load for teaching-oriented universities are 3-3 (i.e. 3 classes with 3 credit hours per semester) and those in the research-oriented are 2-2. Some teaching-oriented universities also require teaching during the summer. It should come as no surprise that looking at the rankings such as THES and Shanghai Jiaotung, no teaching-oriented universities would even make it into these lists.

With regards to this, Malaysian universities are mostly "confused". Look at their visions and missions. Each wishes to become world class universities and aspires to become the Harvards and MITs of Asia.

I think we need a healthy dose of both teaching and research universities. The primary responsibilities of the lecturers for each type of university differs accordingly. The students would also be of different crowds and levels. Is this elitist? Yes, 100% elitist.

However, remember that every person serves a different purpose in life, and each one contributes to society. Not all can become the great leaders and great scientists. What is more important is to give them the avenue to improve themselves if they have the desire and motivation to do so.

Sorry for the long response. It is just that I come across such views in Malaysia quite often and I feel compel to explain the situation. As for me, I worked in one of the public universities in Malaysia for 4 years. In retrospect, the excellent students liked me a lot and I still keep in touch with most of them. But the average and poor students simply hate me as evident from what they wrote in teaching evaluations. Some even wrote personal emails to express their dissatisfactions (I still keep these emails and re-read them when I feel like reminiscing).

Right now I am happy at a research-intensive university abroad. I think I am where I should be. Sometimes I do feel homesick but I love academia and I don't think I'll fit into one of the Malaysian universities, be it public or private.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that the customer always right. In some way universities or any learning institutions beyond secondary level are business entities. They are there to give good services (education)for the people who has the ability to pay.

Students on the other hand already fork-out huge amount of money for their education. In return they expect a high-paying job once their graduate. So every action by lecturers should lead the students to their goal even though it might require the standards to be lowers. It's basic economics. Noone like to pay while getting no benefits.

Ideally the benefits of education can be reflected in a person lifetime. Being educated means a person can work more efficiently, productively and make educated decisions. Maybe the students above do not see what is the real benefit of education.

Some still confuse themselves between education and certificates. Certificates may give you a good jump-start in your career but education is life-long and its benefits extend beyond your high-power career.

Personally I think the lack of liberal education in the education system may makes this matter worse. Most seen schooling
(tertiary education) is a right rather than a privilege. A right for them to get the best value for their money.

I'm not saying that all university/college students required spoon-fed. There are some of us like to lose our sleep in solving problems like the world hunger or the current state of education in Malaysia. In short, those who seek more(read beyond textbook), learn more (expand your understanding) and think more(critically and analytically) can address the problem of our time and the future better than the spoon-fed students.

This is just my opinion. I'm just a student and I see the flaws of spoon-feeding. I have been greatly benefited from spoon-feeding practices all my life. Spoon-feeding only urged you to study a least 1 day before final (for me at least 1 months before finals;I'm not a good rote learner which explain my terrible SPM results) but the time spend not studying has been put into good use like reading (I just finish reading a book yesterday and already started a new one this morning).

If my lecturers ever read this, I guess I'm getting a tougher test paper next time or they could increase the bar for me, and maybe I need 95/ 100 for an A.

Post-SPM student said...

the root of the problem is the education system starting from kindergarten till secondary school. It's not surprising nowadays that even small kids of 5 or 6 years old have tuition classes. Hence, u can see that most (or I would rather say 95%) of the urban students (those who study in city) goes for tuition classes outside the school to get short notes, jokes, n hot chicks no matter how intelligent/smart they are. Only those totally insane ppl would rely on themselves to get good marks in school exams and don't attend any tuition classes outside. These are the brave ones that we should praise for they took 'the road not taken' by the others. So, in the end, when we, being a 'normal' Malaysian knew someone with quite a decent results and then we found out that he didn't attend tuition classes, we would probably faint.

The solution: get rid of the whole education system and start all over again. It's not surprising to see that tuition centres are everywhere in the city, even the suburban areas. We don't need the tuition syndrome, do we?

(I'm proud to say I'm not a product of the tuition syndrome and I had gone through the whole primary and secondary school life without ever attending tuition classes outside. Due to what I consider as a reasonably decent results, I do get some stares when somebody in my school finds out that I din't attend tuition classes despite the fact that my school is considered as an elite school.)

Anonymous said...

The best lecturer award is shared between Wirakarnain and Kosy pilla of UM

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon Fri Dec 22, 08:29:04 PM,

Hope you can give more information on the two best lecturers that you highlighted above - like how they get the "best lecturer award", what challenges they faced with their students. Or is there any website links on their achievements? This can help provide a good description of what makes a good lecturer, the central topic of this blog. Thank you.

Dear Tony, how about coming up with a blog on what makes a good university student? Will be interesting to hear from everyone, including students themselves on this:)

Pity-the-IBS UM said...

"The best lecturer award is shared between Wirakarnain and Kosy pilla of UM"

"Hope you can give more information on the two best lecturers that you highlighted above - like how they get the "best lecturer award", what challenges they faced with their students."

Obviously the second Anonymous Sat Dec 23, 11:49:04 AM does not know the infamous pair from UM.

pity-the-ibs UM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Dear Pity IBS Um,
that recommendation is a cynical comment! Everybody knows the two persons' ability to teach

It was meant as a punt and a tongue in the cheek...the poor second anon took it too literally

Anonymous said...

I’ll admit that I do not belong to the group of “everybody knows the two persons’ ability to teach”. Pardon my ignorance and accept my apologies for making this mistake of taking literally the information provided by Anon Fri Dec 22, 08:29:04 PM.

I like Tony’s educationmalaysia blog and I value it for its educational information. I’ll appreciate it greatly if fellow bloggers can post true information here, and not some inaccurate information that mislead others or make them look stupid. One may get some satisfaction out of playing tricks & punts, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of students/parents/members of public who may not have as much knowledge as you are. After all, this is a blog that is open to public, so please try not to use it to tell untruths & half-truths.

Anonymous said...

I took on my former Form 6 History teacher's challenge ( when I switched to Arts stream after struggling one term at Science ) and came out school top scorer for Form 6 History.. all because she hated my weak Form 3 history foundation. She had said she would eat her shoes if I could manage a principle "E" results.

She was absent when I went back for my book prize at the school's prize giving day..if not my friends would have wanted to ask her if she wanted ketcup on her shoes before she bites it..

Haha.. sometimes as a raucous smart aleck you need such challenges as motivation.

Anonymous said...

A lecturer should not only be lecturing but use different techniques so that he/she can be student centered. Many Malaysian lecturers will only use powerpoint in presenting lectures which could be monotonous. Try hands-on-activities, group discussions.
On the dubious PhDs in Malaysia, I agree that they exist in KDU. A friend of mine informed me that he worked there and discovered this out. I am sure other private colleges will immitate KDU. He also found out that some of the lecturers in KDU are diploma holders...

Anonymous said...

My! oh My!

If KDU is like that, I really pity their students.

Tont P and Kian Ming should come down hard on them and expose them as they have successfully expose KDMC!

Anonymous said...

What can you expect from private colleges? Their only motive is to make huge profits. They do not care about the quality of lecturers. KDU and Stamford are well-known in hiring diploma holders to teach college level classes. What results do you expect from the students? Tony and Kian Ming should do some investigations into this matter...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon (Wed Dec 27, 10:28:52 AM) that a lecturer should use different techniques in teaching. When I started out being a lecturer 1 ½ years ago, I used only transparencies. It helped the students take down some notes accurately, but overall, the lecture pace was slow and monotonous.

Gradually, I learnt to use power-point slides. And then I learnt to download pictures & animations from the Web and insert them into the slides. I notice that students like it also if we show them video-presentations, and invite guest speakers. I once invited a guest speaker to talk about something not quite relevant to my subject, but still, my students enjoyed the talk and were active during Q&A time for the speaker, and before we realised it, we exceeded the lecture hours.

As for hands-on-activities and group discussions during lectures, I started exploring these beginning this year. I found some small setbacks. First, the preparations can be twice as much as normal preparations for lectures, especially that I had to plan out the kind of activities and source for the materials to be used. Also, there were poor participation. I found the students quite reluctant to speak up, especially when requested to hold discussions in English. But if I gave them a free hand to discuss in their mother tongues, the discussions got animated, just that I was not able to understand them and so unable to give my inputs.

I also found that their discussions tend to stray to other out-of-classroom conversations or their assignments for other subjects. Some students even took the opportunity to leave the lecture hall without my knowledge. These taught me to exercise tighter control over the discussions, and I started putting in time-limits for discussion per person and requiring each member to speak up during discussions.

And then there are groups of students who somehow come to lectures expecting the lecturer to do lecturing solely during lecture-hours. That is to say they view these activities and discussions as a plain waste of their time and would rather a one-way communication without their need to do much thinking or talking during these lecture hours. My lecturer’s evaluation by students results showed the students’ opinion that I should concentrate more on doing lectures to finish the syllabus earlier, rather than “wasting so much time on all these unnecesssary activities and discussions”.

Despite these setbacks, I see much merits and benefits in conducting activities, as opposed to mere lecturing alone, during lectures. I have also attended education-training workshops, and I observe that to prevent monotony, the expert trainers often have short presentations, followed by activities, and then repeat the process again. One trainer even required us lecturers to do lesson plannings & then we were to conduct a lecture that was recorded simultaneously by video After the mock lectures, the trainer proceeded to play back the video-recordings and provided her inputs on our performances. I plan now to use this method for my students’ presentation sessions. Also, make extensive use of E-learning.

Anonymous said...

To anon on Thu Dec 28, 02:45:48 PM...

Kudos to you for going out of your way in making sure that the students learn. I think your students will be all the better for it.

However, your post took me back to when I was a student in what is considered as an elite university in the US. Most of my lectures were PowerPoint-based. The students did not merely listen, they participated (by asking questions and giving opinions) and appeared generally interested in learning. Of course there were a few back-benchers, however the average student was eager to learn and do well (at least from my point of view). Now I am in a university considered as top-tiered university pursuing a PhD, and most of the teaching I see still use the lecture method (of course there are also minor supplements such as posting notes and discussions on web-sites).

I think it might be time for us to shift some of the burden of learning to the students as well. Are our students eager to learn? What do they expect by going to a university anyway? Are those students filling our universities because their parents wanted them to be there?

I think nowadays every parent in Malaysia wishes their children to be university-educated. Children who do not end-up in universities are considered as failures. Our leaders (?) on the other hand, are too busy pleasing their voters. They built one university after another without considering the implications. If they cannot build, they will upgrade as examplified by the recent upgrade of our college universities. Even the weak students are able to call themselves mahasiswa/mahasiswi. Failing a well-deserving student is considered as "tutup periuk nasi orang", and even worse you get call by your department head or even the dean. A degree becomes nothing more than a piece of worthless paper.

Don't get me wrong, I do agree that academics need to always improve themselves in research, teaching, etc. But the solution to our acute problem is not as simple as incorporating animations and graphics in our slides. I think we need to reconsider the purpose of our universities in the first place, and those we allow in it.

Disclaimer: I am limiting my arguments to public universities only, for the private ones... well, that is another story...

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous lecturer of Thu Dec 28, 02:45:48 PM..
I am teaching in a US public research university and I am surprised to see your post on your teaching approach. I don't know where you are teaching but I guess in Malaysia because of the mention of different languages; but you have obviously done some homework or gone through some training on new teaching methods which are being debated and tried in the US. In addition to group discussions, we also have wireless polling in class where students can respond to multiple-choiced questions asked by the lecturer without revealing his/her identity to the class. But the responses are recorded by the computer and lecturers know the responses of each student. That way, students need not be shy about answering questions wrongly because responses are anonymous to the classmates. This method provides an immediate feedback to the lecturer to see if students are catching the particular concept being discussed and whether the concept needs more explanation. This method is only valid for 1st/2nd year large undergraduate courses.
I hope your posting gives the readers here a look at what new lecturing is about.

Anonymous said...

UM started falling when lecturers start using OHP and power point.
Without OHP or power points the lecturers cannot teach,.....haha
Most powerpoints are 100% downloaded from internet

UM started falling when lecturers still read books in front of the class. What happened to the old experienced lecturers that can talk ' off the cuff'?

What happened to the good ' chalk and talk ' lecturers who are proven to be effective?

Given proper training 'monkeys' can be taught to teach using powerpoints...

UM started falling when under ISO they give computerized forms for students to comment abt lecturers or teaching envnt
They never read the students comments. Every year the standard format of comments generated by computer....wat a laff

euni said...

I believe the lack of students appreciation is simply because of the way they were raised and taught in elementary and secondary schools. Let's face the fact, students (including myself) are spoonfed for 12 years. It's absolutely normal and within expectations that teachers have to pass out notes, tell them which sections are important to read (potentially in exams), look for straight answers for given questions, and etc.

It's time for our generation to recognize the weakness of the education system that we experienced and step up to promote a change so our future generation do not have to suffer from the same mistakes.

One of the effective solutions I can think of is to start with the parents. I notice Malaysian parents are too busy sending the kids for external tuitions. Why not just tell them it's their responsibility to tell the school to improve the teaching methods.

Parents should participate more in the children school programs and give suggestions to the school authorities. Without the pressure from the parents, the school authority will only continue what they have done for the past 10 or 20 years without a slight change.

And the smart ones who recognize the fault should not be shy to point it out, more importantly to take action (even little one) to increase the awareness.

Anonymous said...

I have been lecturing for nine years and have been cheated by institutions of higher learning when I pursued a postgraduate program especially with one down under. I can't help feeling that the system is cheating the students and cheating us as lecturers. Now I have left the education industry altogether and am much happier. Degrees whether by good or bad unis or colleges are produced by the dozen and I feel that the certificate no longer holds water in any decent company. Infact, employers now despise the credential which seems to make the name that it describes after, rather clownish. What I was really hurt by private colleges is their lack of ethics and promoting honesty where it is sorely lacking. Finally, most used the students to evaluate the lecturer's performance till I told one why don't you just cut out the lecturers and sell the certificate to the students. That way both colleges and students are happy.

Anonymous said...

i'm a Utar student myself. To be a good lecturer??? i dun know about other subject, but for me the engineering is that the lecturer must be good in theory nor practical as these 2 are very important if you study engineering.

i been in utar for 3 years, every year i have been through some lecturer that are so bad in english, y?? because they are from eygpt, india . yes is true ,some of them are from other country, but as we the student always laugh behind their back bout their bad english. but all of us do admite that they are very good lecturer. explaination when lecturing is so details. even sometimes , the lecturers do challenged us to answer his question, we always have fun in the class.

as i'm a lazy student myself ,but i do understand when i'm doing lab practical. as there are always guidandence from them. not like in my previous college, which my practical work are so bad because there always no asistance from them.

after you saw what i write , maybe you think that we are so relaxing. but tell you the true , we are all so damn tired, because we are always full of assignment, and practical lab , or project. and the test always so hard until our course top scorer would want to cry. do you think we dun have the quality , i would tell you that when my friend from notthingham is watching movie , we would always study, cause we know that we could failed in final exam as the exam is much more harder to pass comparing to other government U or private U.

and do not and should not question the ability of utar student speaking in english. we do spoke mandarin or cantonese when with friends. but what i know from my friend from other uni is that they are talkng in malays , more worst some in hokkien or hakka. when we do presentation, i do found out that many student were very good in english , especially some told me that they actually speaking english with their family or other friends. so i think this is something very common among our country as we are multi racial country. and i do believe english will help you to get job easier, but though, multi lauguge is oso one of the advantages when you looking for a job.

bout the quality of lecturer, just see what i have right now, 3 phd, 1 professor, 1 phillo. i do like their teaching style. when some uni were having some diploma or bech. i would think that the Utar has the quality . dun believe in the engineering course you taken, BEM will tell you . BEM (Board of eng. malaysia) have recognizes the electronic course which mean that the course have fulfill the requirement. while other course will only have graduate coming out aroung this oktober. so i never worried bout their quality as BEM had tell me all i need. after all, you want to stay competitive in this world, you have to count on yourself, no one could help you after you come out to work, not even your UM, CAMBRIDGE, NOTTHINGHAM, OXFORD.etc professsor. is all on your hand.

Anonymous said...

i am a new lecturer. i have taught for only half of year. i am very very grateful that i can read this article with all comments from lecturers and students here. please continue to respond, so i can learn more to be a good lecturer.
i may have the passion, but i feel very very lack about the knowledge either the subject i teach nor the teaching skills.
Once again, thank u guys

Tariq said...

Can somebody help me since youre all lectures ??

Im doing an assingment on Uni Lectures. I have to create a INTERVIEW PACKAGE .

1 of the things i have to do is create a 'behavioral criteria' discribtion . i dont know what behavioral criteria a lecture needs to have ??

maybe here are some i came up with -

?? please !? anymore ??